Halep wins Dubai tiebreaker to secure 20th title

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              Romania's Simona Halep reacts after she got a point against Kazakhstan's Elena Rybakina during the final match of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Top-seeded Simona Halep won her 20th singles title after prevailing in a third-set tiebreaker to beat Elena Rybakina 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5) in the Dubai Championships final on Saturday.

No. 2-ranked Halep was 3-1 down in the third set. The Romanian broke to lead 6-5, but Rybakina’s powerful hitting forced the tiebreaker. Rybakina led 4-3 but Halep converted the only match point.

“It was amazing,” Halep said of the 2 1/2-hour final. “(Rybakina) fought till the end. She didn’t give up any balls. It was really tough mentally. The pressure was very high. But I want it badly, so that’s why I fought till the end.”

The Wimbledon champion won her second Dubai title.

Rybakina knocked out Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin and former No. 1 Karolina Pliskova in earlier rounds, and was playing her fourth final of the young WTA season. She’s lost three of them.

Rybakina is projected to rise two spots to a career-high No. 17 in Monday’s rankings update.

“She’s strong. She’s tall. She has power,” Halep said. “I think she’s really good to get into the top 10 very soon.”